But when he had searched a wilderness on the confines of his father's realm, Boy Beautiful took leave of the warriors, and sent them back to his father, taking of the provisions only so much as his good steed could carry. Then he pursued his way towards sunrise, and went on and on for three days and three nights till he came to an immense plain covered with the bones of many dead men. Here they stopped to rest, and the horse said to him: "Know, my master, that we are now in the domains of the witch Gheonoea, who is so evil a being that none can set a foot on her domains and live. Once she was a woman like other women, but the curse of her parents, whom she would never obey, fell like a withering blast upon her, and she became what she now is. At this moment she is with her children in the forest, but she will come speedily to seek and destroy thee. Great and terrible is she, yet fear not, but make ready thy bow and arrows, thy sword and lance, that thou mayest make use of them when the time comes." - Then they rested, and while one slept the other watched.
When the day dawned they prepared to traverse the forest; Boy Beautiful bridled and saddled his horse, drew the reins tighter than at other times, and set out. At that moment they heard a terrible racket. Then the horse said: "Beware, my master, Gheonoea is approaching." The trees of the forest fell to this side and to that as the witch drew nigh like the tempest, but Boy Beautiful struck off one of her feet with an arrow from his bow, and he was about to shoot a second time when she cried: "Stay thy hand, Boy Beautiful, for I'll do thee no harm!" And seeing he did not believe her, she gave him a promise written in her blood.
"Look well to thy horse, Boy Beautiful," said she, "for he is a greater magician than I. But for him I should have roasted thee, but now thou must dine at my table. Know too that no mortal hath yet succeeded in reaching this spot, though some have got so far as the plain where thou didst see all the bones."
Then Gheonoea hospitably entertained Boy Beautiful as men entertain travellers, but now and then, as they conversed together, Gheonoea groaned with pain, but as soon as Boy Beautiful threw her her foot which he had shot off, she put it in its place and immediately it grew fast on to her leg again. Then, in her joy, Gheonoea feasted him for three days and begged him to take for his consort one of her three daughters, who were divinely beautiful, but he would not. Then he asked her concerning his quest. "With such valour and such a good steed as thine," she answered, "thou must needs succeed."
So after the three days were over they went on their way again. Boy Beautiful went on and on, and the way was very long, but when they had passed the boundaries of Gheonoea they came to a beauteous meadow-land, but on one side the grass was fresh and bright and full of flowers, and on the other side it was burnt to cinders. Then Boy Beautiful asked the horse the meaning of the singed grass, and this is what the horse replied: "We are now in the territories of Scorpia, the sister of Gheonoea. Yet so evil-minded are these two sisters that they cannot live together in one place. The curse of their parents has blasted them, and they have become witches as thou dost see; their hatred of each other is great, and each of them is ever striving to wrest a bit of land from the dominions of the other. And when Scorpia is angry she vomits forth fire and flame, and so when she comes to her sister's boundaries the grass of the border withers up before her. She is even more dreadful than her sister, and has, besides, three heads; but be of good cheer, my master, and to-morrow morning be ready to meet her."
At dawn, next day, they were preparing to depart when they heard a roaring and a crashing noise, the like of which man has never heard since the world began.
"Be ready, my master, for now Scorpia is approaching," cried the faithful steed.
And indeed, Scorpia it was. With jaws reaching from earth to heaven, and spitting forth fire as she approached, Scorpia drew near, and the noise of her coming was like the roar of a whirlwind. But the good steed rose into the air like a dart, and Boy-Beautiful shot an arrow which struck off one of the witch's three heads. He was about to lay another arrow on his bow, when Scorpia begged him to forgive her and she would do him no harm, and by way of assurance she gave him a promise written in her blood.
Then she feasted him as her sister had done before, and he gave her back her severed head, which she stuck in its place again, and then, after three days, Boy Beautiful and his faithful steed took to the road again.
When they had crossed Scorpia's borders they went on and on without stopping till they came to a vast meadow covered with nothing but flowers, where Spring reigned eternally. Every flower was won-drously beautiful and full of a fragrance that comforted the soul, and a light zephyr ran continually over the flowery billows. Here then they sat them down to rest, and the good steed said:
"Hitherto, oh my master! we have prospered, but now a great danger awaits us, which if by the help of the Lord God we overcome, then shall we be heroes indeed. Not far from here stands the palace of Youth without Age, and Life without Death, but it is surrounded by a high and deep forest, and in this forest are all the savage monsters of the wide world. Day and night they guard it, and if a man can count the grains of sand on the sea-shore, then also can he count the number of these monsters. We cannot fight them, they would tear us to pieces before we were half-way through the forest, so we must try if we can leap clean over it without touching it."
So they rested them two days to gather strength, and then the steed drew a long breath and said to Boy Beautiful: "Draw my saddle-girths as tightly as thou art able, and when thou hast mounted me, hold on fast with all thy might to my mane, and press thy feet on my neck instead of on my flanks, that thou mayest not hinder me."